Police have described a pair of bear spray attacks that occurred early on Saturday morning as random and unconnected incidents.
© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Prince Albert Police Sgt. Brandon Mudry speaks at a Monday press conference.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Sgt. Brandon Mudry indicated that the Prince Albert Police Service did not see the incidents as linked or part of a larger trend.
“At this point, there’s no reason to believe that either were related,” Mudry said.
Patrol members responded to the first of the two incidents at 3:30 a.m. after receiving a call about a bear spray incident in the 200 block of 23rd Street East.
Having been called to the location half an hour earlier for the eviction of a loud party, police promptly cleared the residence.
The party then resumed, at which point an unknown male suspect released a can of bear spray into the residence in what Mudry described as a “random attack.”
Police have not received any information suggesting that the suspect was a guest at the party.
“I can only go by what the file says, and it doesn’t speak to anything that leads us to believe that the associate was part of the party previously,” Mudry said.
Witnesses described the suspect as wearing a black and white striped shirt, a striped hat, jeans and black running shoes. The case remains under investigation.
Police responded to their second call involving bear spray at 4:30 a.m., when officers arrived in the 1100 block of Sixth Street East after receiving a break and enter complaint.
A 73-year-old man told police that he had awoken to his house alarm going off. When he noticed that his garage doors were open, he left his residence and confronted two males inside his garage.
Attempting to detain the suspects, the elder man tried to close the garage door on them before they overpowered him and assaulted him with bear spray.
Parkland Ambulance treated the victim at the scene. He described one of the male suspects as 5’ 8” and wearing a grey hoodie, while the other was wearing a red hoodie.
While neither of the suspects managed to steal anything, Mudry noted that police do not recommend confronting suspects -- a risky move for ordinary citizens -- but rather calling 911.
At the same time, he acknowledged there was little else the victim could have done to protect himself against a bear spray attack.
“I’m sure when he went out there, he never ever thought that he was going to end up getting bear sprayed,” Mudry said.
Bear spray is tracked at numerous local outlets, so we do have an idea who is buying it and who gets it. Sgt. Brandon Mudry
Since an incident a few years ago in which bear spray was used inside a local movie theatre, the Prince Albert Police Service has encouraged local retailers that stock the product to raise the bar for potential buyers.
“Bear spray is tracked at numerous local outlets, so we do have an idea who is buying it and who gets it,” Mudry said. “There are programs at some of the local businesses that do ask people to provide identification if they’re buying bear spray, so that assists us in these investigations.”
“I think in Prince Albert proper … the businesses are making a conscientious effort to track the sale of bear spray and be aware of who’s buying it,” he added
Typically, the identification must verify that the buyer is at least 18 years old. Other stores require those who purchase bear spray to fill out additional forms.
One such retailer is Fresh Air Experience, which requires individuals who wish to purchase bear spray to sign forms and present ID proving they are 18 or over.
The store also writes down the serial number of each bear spray canister it sells -- a practice that has aided past police investigations such as that into the bear spray at the movie theatre.
“When there were incidents that happened there, the police actually came by and they actually gave us stickers to throw on the bear spray,” Fresh Air Experience sales consultant Michelle Horn said. “So if they came across a bear spray canister that was used for something it wasn’t intended for, they can track it back down to us.”
Given its downtown location, the owners of Fresh Air Experience are wary of people potentially wanting bear spray for anything other than its intended use.
“If it’s someone that doesn’t look like they’re going to use it for its intended purpose, we won’t sell it,” Horn said.
She added, “When we have people coming from across the street where the CB building is and wanting to buy bear spray, we’re like, ‘Well, no, we can’t sell it to you.’ We have a good idea what our customer base is.”